African Leagues review
New champions were crowned on the final day of the season in Zimbabwe, while in neighbouring South Africa, Mamelodi Sundowns are threatening to open up a significant lead as the league nears the halfway point. An absence of goals did not lessen the drama in Morocco, and there was good news for followers of the Porcupines, Ghana’s fabled Asante Kotoko. FIFA.com rounds up the weekend action in some of Africa’s leagues.
Zimbabwe: Nail-biting finish
It came down to goal difference in the end as Motor Action claimed a first-ever Premier Soccer League title, holding off a blazing challenge from domestic giants, Dynamos, as both finished on 66 points on Sunday. Dynamos, who have won a record 12 post-independence championships, won their last six games of the season in a bid to usurp Motor Action’s long-standing leadership, but a 1-0 win over Black Mambas was not enough to swing the title their way
Big game: Motor Action scored twice in the first 20 minutes against relegation-bound Lengthens FC to make sure there would be no nasty surprises on the final day of the season. Rivals Dynamos needed a four-goal swing to overtake them, but after Enasio Perezo struck twice, the title was as good as in the bag. A speculative cross from Passmore Bernard ensured a third goal soon after half-time, which set up a second half of celebration before the final whistle brought confirmation of the title.
Headline-grabbers: Dynamos were always coming from behind this season, but they had several fixtures in hand in the final weeks after postponements earlier in the campaign caused by participation in the CAF Champions League. But by the final day they were still behind on goal difference and needed a deluge against Black Mambas, and in the end, they managed just a solitary goal from Dylan Chivandire.
Morocco: Stalemate situation
All but three of the weekend’s Botola fixtures ended in draws as the battle for dominance in the standings inched forward with OC Khouribga still leading by two points but having played one match more than MAS Fez in second place. Reigning champions WAC Casablanca dropped two points at home but still moved above arch rivals Raja Casablanca into fourth place after Raja lost to OC Safi.
Big game: Holders Wydad have endured a massive hangover since their derby win over Raja at the start of the month, losing twice before partially arresting the slide with a draw on Sunday. Again, they fell behind to DH EL Jadida in the 46th minute when Abdellah Lahoua scored, but they salvaged some pride 15 minutes later when Abderrahim Benkejjane netted with a header.
Headline-grabbers: Houssam Eddine Eshaji, who had been in France on trials last season, coolly converted the penalty that moved OC Safi to third place with a 1-0 home win over Raja on Saturday. Moussa Tigana, the Malian import carrying the burden of a famous footballing name, grabbed the second half equaliser that saw MAS Fez stay two points above Safi as they drew away at FAR Rabat.
South Africa: Sun rising on Sundowns
Mamelodi Sundowns made sure they will finish the year at the head of the Premier League standings after a 1-0 win away at Ajax Cape Town. Defeat for Ajax dropped them from second to fourth place as both Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs leap-frogged above them into second and third respectively. The two Soweto giants both had hard fought wins on Saturday with Pirates beating Moroka Swallows 2-0 away and Chiefs overcoming Wits 1-0.
Big game: Ajax were second going into the game against Sundowns on Friday, four points adrift but with a chance to cut into the lead. Heroic goalkeeping from Wayne Sandilands kept Sundowns’ goal intact in the early going, but a horror tackle from Ajax striker Thembinkosi Fanteni after just 26 minutes saw him sent off. Ajax continued gamely with 10 men, but Sundowns made a second half breakthrough through the first touch from substitute Nyasha Mushekwi, who came on just before a corner, ran into the box and delivered the decisive blow.
Headline-grabbers: Gordon Igesund has won four titles with four different teams over the last 15 years, but his new coaching assignment at Moroka Swallows seems a different kind of prospect. The Birds are in deep trouble without a win after 11 games and firmly at the foot of the table. Igesund took over two matches ago, but a 2-0 home loss to Pirates accentuated the grim reality of the task that lies ahead. “There are still enough matches left to play this season to get the points we need to beat relegation,” he insisted despite the latest setback.
Ghana: Victory at last
After a seven match winless streak, glamour club Asante Kotoko showed signs of revival with a home triumph at the weekend, but Ghana’s other former African champions Hearts of Oak dropped into the bottom half of the table after losing 2-1 at Real Tamale United.
Big game: Leaders Bechem Chelsea will resume after the brief New Year break with a seven-point lead after Emmanuel Osei Banahene's first half goal settled matters in their favour in 1-0 win over Mighty Jets away in Accra.
Headline grabbers: Relegation-threatened Asante Kotoko will be pleased Jordan Opoku has returned home after spells with clubs in Europe. He got the winner in the 2-1 home win over All Stars that ensured home fans in Kotoko had something to smile about again.
Esperance are back to a four point lead at the helm of the Tunisian Ligue 1 standings after they won at home against AS Marsa and second placed Etoile Sahel slipped to a 3-1 defeat at Stade Tunisien.
Four clubs sit equal on 13 points at the top of Nigeria’s Premier League with Sunshine Stars above Kwara United, Heartland FC and Gombe United on goal difference.
ECCO City Green won valuable away points at the popular Gaborone United to cut Township Rollers’ lead in Botswana to just two points.